Howdy friends! You may have heard by now that there’s a lot of kerfuffle and drama around the Religious Discrimination Bill, and as things start moving through parliament I do not blame you for being confused. Come, take my limp wrist, and allow me to explain what the fuck is going on.
First things first, the Religious Discrimination Bill package has passed through to the Senate with 90 votes in favour and 6 against. You may not know much about it apart from the fact that it’s fucked, and you’d be right!
It’s essentially a bill that will favour the protection of religious people over LGBTQI folk. While it specifically outlines that schools cannot expel a child for being gay, there’s a loophole that will allow them to discriminate against trans kids. But hey, Christian people need their rights apparently.
The Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 has passed the House and will be transmitted to the Senate. During consideration in detail, Government amendments were made, while amendments moved by Opposition and Crossbench Members were defeated.
— Australian House of Representatives (@AboutTheHouse) February 9, 2022
However, alongside the bill, amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act (which is part of the Human Rights Amendment Bill) have also passed, making things not so fkn rotten towards LGBTQI kids.
Two bills passing at the same time, one bad one good. Got it? Got it.
Right now, we’re all waiting for the bill to move on to the Senate, where it will be voted on furthermore. The thing is though it won’t be moving on to the Senate until possibly after the election… so what the fuck is happening with this bill?
These amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act were suggested by Member for South Australia’s Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie, after amendments offered up by Labor’s Anthony Albanese were shut down.
Thanks to Sharkie, and a few other Liberal MPs who crossed the floor to vote with Labor (Bridget Archer, Trent Zimmerman, Dave Sharma, Katie Allen and Fiona Martin), the amendments were voted on 65 in favour and 57 against.
After a marathon battle, my amendment to help protect students from all forms of discrimination has been passed. Ultimately, I could not support the Religious Discrimination Act but I am proud to have played a small part in making bad legislation better.
— Rebekha Sharkie MP (@MakeMayoMatter) February 9, 2022
These amendments specify that LGBTQI kids cannot be expelled at all by Christian schools, inclusive of trans kids, but there, but there are two catches.
Catch 1: The amendments need to now be fought for in Senate.
Catch 2: Even with both bills existing together, schools can still discriminate against LGBTQI kids. They can’t expel them, but they can make their lives hell. On top of this, LGBTQI teachers still remain without protection.
As you can imagine, Coalition members would love to reverse these changes to the Sex Discrimination Act in the Senate so that the bills that pass through only protect gay kids. We love a hateful conservative government!
So yeah, the fight isn’t over yet, and there’s still quite a bit more work to do.
So did I. That is why the amendments moved by @MakeMayoMatter and supported by many independents and Lib MPs Zimmerman, Sharma, Archer, and Fiona Martin plus @AustLabourParty were so important. The original bill was discriminatory against transgender kids.
— Lucy Turnbull AO (@LucyTurnbull_AO) February 9, 2022
Has it though? Labor’s amendments failed, the only reason we have these protections (for now, there’s no guarantee they’ll remain) is because of Rebekah Sharkie https://t.co/zZa8UejpX2
— Kemal Atlay (@kemal_atlay) February 9, 2022
And in a humorous turn of events, the Christian Lobby no longer supports the Religious Discrimination Bill, because the amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act have stopped them from being able to *checks notes* discriminate.
“Taking away protections for Christian schools is a price too high to pay for the passage of the Religious Discrimination Bill,” said Australian Christian Lobby member Wendy Francis in a statement.
“The amendments voted on by Labor, independents and these Liberal MPs unnecessarily interfere with the operation of faith-based schools.”
God, that all reads like a villain in the final act of a movie. Might be because this quote quite literally comes from the villains of this story, and we are very much nearing the final act.
Just say you hate gay people and get the fuck outta here, Wendy.
During the debate for the amendments, North Sydney Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman, who voted with Labor, made an incredibly powerful speech, which I’d like to talk about for just a sec.
Trent Zimmerman, the Liberal MP for North Sydney, is making a powerful speech in Parliament now about his very personal concerns about the religious discrimination bills.
— David Crowe (@CroweDM) February 9, 2022
“We understand that parents, in making choices about their children’s education are looking for the religious ethos of their school communities to be respected, consistent with the choices that they have made as families and as parents about the manner in which their children will be educated,” said Zimmerman.
“For me, there is nothing different about your sexuality or your gender than the colour of your skin. And I don’t believe that this Parliament would waste a second if there was some old law, which said that a school or any institution could discriminate against you because of your race and allow that to stand on the statute books,”
“I cannot stand by and do anything that makes their [LGBTQI kids] situation more difficult, which sends anything other than a message from this parliament, which most receive in their schools but sadly some don’t, that we want to embrace you, we want to love you, we want to support you, we want to nurture you.”
Thank you for crossing the floor, king. Love your work.
So in summary, the Religious Discrimination Bill and the amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act will move to Senate together, where more work will need to be done once there.
The Coalition is probably scrambling at the moment, now that the Christian Lobby has pulled support for the bill as well.
Important to note that Anthony Albanese wanted the Religious Discrimination Bill to pass, but only if it there was protection for trans kids put in place through some form of an amendment, but failed to do so. Rebekha Sharkie is the real star of the show here, and it’s thanks to her that we might get protections for trans kids included in the law.
Hume says instead the government still backs a Law Reform Commission process to investigate the issue, “so that we get that balance right and handle the issue as sensitively as possible”
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) February 9, 2022
Scott Morrison however is adamant that the Religious Discrimination Act can be changed after it’s passed, saying that reforms will come in six months that provide protections for trans kids and LGBTQI teachers.
He doesn’t want the Sex Discrimination Act amendments to pass, of course, and wants to handle them in his own time “as sensitively as possible” via the Australian Law Reform Commissioner. Feels like the bill’s transphobia is revealing itself a bit too much, don’t you think?
“That time will come and the work must be done… that will set the clock on another debate to then take place.”
Alrighty, Scott, protect the people of faith first (which includes you and your family) and then deal with the gays, I guess? Promising things in six months is a big call for someone who may not even be Prime Minister by then.
But hey, according to the Guardian we may not even see the Senate voting on these bills until after the election anyway.
“The Senate has just decided not to debate the religious discrimination bills today,” wrote Guardian journalist Paul Karp.
“That means the package is likely to NOT be considered for a final vote this side of the election.”
Fun. Love this.